Hidden in one of America’s most historic cemeteries is a haunting 19th-century tombstone depicting the last morning of Jane Griffith.
There are plenty of gorgeous Victorian tombstones in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, but few tell a story so plainly as this one. Beautifully carved by Italian artist Patrizio Piatti (1824-1888) in precise, three-dimensional detail, the grave depicts a commonplace domestic scene with a tragically sorrowful ending.
Charles Griffith says goodbye to his wife Jane on the footsteps of their brownstone on 109 West 13th Street. It is the morning of August 3rd, 1857, and he is about to leave for a typical day’s work, starting with a commute on the Sixth Avenue horse trolley which waits on the corner. This day starts like any other, and the carving depicts this in all of its everyday simplicity. What happens next isn’t portrayed in the engraving but its medium and location makes it clear that this day was not like every other. Tragically, when Charles returned home from work, he found his wife dead from heart failure.
Piatti’s detail is extraordinary, from the iron fencing to their pet dog waiting on the top step of the brownstone. Simply titled to “Jane my Wife,” the monument captures poignantly the morning Charles said farewell to his wife without knowing that it was for the last time.
It is said that an ever-devoted Charles regularly visited his wife’s final resting place for the 25 years until he finally joined her in death.